Where have all the sociologists gone?

[From Rick Marken (950323.2000)]

Kent McClelland (950323) --

Hello to my many friends in CSG-Land!

Hi Kent! Great to have you back, if only for a short time.

I'm dropping a note to say that I will be monitoring CSG-L again for the
next week or so

I'll try to behave myself;-)

One highlight of the last several months for me has been the appearance in
print of my much-revised article on PCT for sociologists.

Congratulations!

Your post reminds me that not one sociologist replied to Paul Stokes'
(950321) recent question about the application of PCT to sociology.
You probably got back on the net after that post but maybe you can
get it from the archives and respond as an official PCT sociologist.

I would also be interested in your ideas about a question that just
occurred to me regarding PCT and sociology. Why do you think that there has
been virtually no PCT research (that I know of) on social phenomena -- other
than that done by Tom Bourbon, who, like me, is not a "real" sociologist? I
know that you have done some excellent modelling work on conflict; and Bill
Powers wrote the CROWD program to show how the behavior of interacting
control systems can mimic (qualitatively) some of the fascinating collective
behavioral phenomena observed by Clark McPhail and Chuck Tucker. But
there has really been no research (that I know of) that is aimed at
testing to see what variables people control in social situations (other
than Tom's) that I know of.

Of course, there is _almost_ no PCT research done in psychology either. But
there is at least SOME (all of it done, of course, by members of CSG). Why
has there been PCT modelling but no PCT research in sociology? Or am I just
not aware of it?

Best

Rick

################ FROM CHUCK TUCKER 950324 ############

       As a supplement to Kent's comments, I would like to point
       out that the GATHERING PROGRAM was developed based on
       experimental research done by McPhail and Wohlstein (see
       "Collective Behavior as Collective Locomotion" ASR 51:447-463
       (1986)) and a sociological view of PCT is noted in Runkel's
       book, McPhail's (1991) THE MYTH OF THE MADDING CROWD. Aldine
       and my article w/ Clark in ABS special issue edited by Rick.
       I contend that all experimental research done with humans
       can be viewed in PCT terms but I have yet to make such
       translations except with the 21 studies done by Milgram
       (actually this translation was done by Rigney, McPhail and
       myself before we knew of PCT and subsequently re-translated
       at one of the CSG meetings in Wisconsin [you are correct that
       it has never been published]) I would also say that all of
       Kent's recent work is very useful for understanding the
       sociological view of PCT and I might add that I think that
       Ed Ford's work indicative of a PCT sociological view [I
       hope he would agree]. But Rick is correct that we haven't
       done enough experimentally but that is not because we
       we don't have the goal; we will get it done.

       Regards, Chuck

[From Kent McClelland (950324)]

Rick Marken (950323.2000)

I would also be interested in your ideas about a question that just
occurred to me regarding PCT and sociology. Why do you think that there has
been virtually no PCT research (that I know of) on social phenomena -- other
than that done by Tom Bourbon, who, like me, is not a "real" sociologist? I
know that you have done some excellent modelling work on conflict; and Bill
Powers wrote the CROWD program to show how the behavior of interacting
control systems can mimic (qualitatively) some of the fascinating collective
behavioral phenomena observed by Clark McPhail and Chuck Tucker. But
there has really been no research (that I know of) that is aimed at
testing to see what variables people control in social situations (other
than Tom's) that I know of.

Rick, I can offer a few lame excuses, for what they're worth. First, most
sociologists haven't been trained in the kind of technologically
sophisticated laboratory research that you, Tom, and Bill have done, which
is our only model so far for rigorous PCT research. Some sociologists have
attempted to graft control theorizing on to their familiar sociological
approaches to research but without notable success, as of yet.

Second, the "variables that people control in social situations" seem
pretty complex, and we have a lot of theoretical and imaginative work to do
before sociologists can begin to think clearly enough in PCT terms about
social interactions so that we can devise convincing laboratory
demonstrations. For one thing, I suspect that most sociologically
interesting encounters involve the simultaneous control of two or more
high-level perceptual variables on at least two perceptual levels. For an
example of a sociologically interesting episode, consider one in which the
developing conflicts between two people on one level are solved by
achieving alignment of their reference standards on some higher level of
collectively controlled perception.

(For instance, I can give you a possible sociological analysis of why I'm
now offering excuses to you for my sociologist colleagues by suggesting
that the disturbance to the perceptual function that you controlled by
asking me this question has now resulted in a disturbance to another
variable for me, because your question initially appears to me to a threat
to a perception I want to maintain--that we are on the "same side" of PCT
controversies, members of the same team, as it were. I attempt to control
my perception by offering these excuses, the underlying message of which is
that, despite our differing assessments of the performance of sociological
researchers to date, we agree at some higher level on the worthiness of the
ultimate goal of doing PCT-informed sociological research. Does this make
any sense, or am I lost in the complexities?)

Need I point out that the PCT modeling necessary to simulate collective
control of perceptions on at least two perceptual levels is, as far as I
know, still at a pretty rudimentary stage of development? Your spreadsheet
models suggest one approach to thinking about the problem, and you and
Bill, I believe, have published a tracking simulation that demonstrates
control at two levels (something, I believe, about an abrupt switch in the
polarity of the connection of the handle to the cursor . . . ). In any
case, my somewhat defensive reaction to your question is that you and other
psychological laboratory whizzes could make things a lot easier for
sociological PCT pioneers by publishing some tracking experiments and demos
that give us working models of two-level collective control. What do you
say?

Kent

[From Rick Marken (950325.1030)]

Kent McClelland (950324)--

Thanks for the reply. I didn't find it defensive at all, by the way. I
didn't ask the question to "attack" sociologists; I asked out of curiosity.
Your reply was very helpful. For example, you say:

the "variables that people control in social situations" seem pretty complex

I think this is a very common belief in sociology as well as in areas of
psychology that deal with "higher level" perceptions (cognitions). I agree
that people may be controlling very high level variables in social situations.
But I think one of the main lessons of the CROWD program is that very complex
looking behavior can be the result of individuals controlling one or two very
simple perceptions (like distance and rate of movement, which are the
variables individuals control in the CROWD program). What is interesting
about CROWD (to me) is that very complex side effects (like circles, arcs,
and other complex patterns) can be seen in the behavior of groups of
individuals -- when these individuals are not controlling for these results
at all.

The situation is much like that with "stimulus control"; what we are
seeing, in CROWD and in my soon to be released "stimulus control" demo,
are irrelevant side effects of controlling. In the CROWD demo we are
seeing complex, but irrelevant, side effects of controlling very simple
variables; in the "stimulus control" demo we are seeing a simple, but
still irrelevant, side effect of controlling a fairly complex variable
(a logical relationship).

It seems to me that the CROWD demo can serve as the basis for some very
useful sociological research. For example, CROWD suggests that certain
patterns of collective behavior are a result of controlling interpersonal
distance; so why not test to see whether people in groups control
interpersonal distance? This could be done by having "stooges" go into
a crowd or group and see how close they can get to other people. With
some ingenuity (which I cannot muster this early in the weekend) you could
even get an idea of the gain and dynamics of the individual control systems.

This is the kind of research I thought the CROWD program would have motivated.
I don't think it needs to be highly quantitative research. It just requires
guessing what _simple_ variables people might be controlling when they are
in "gatherings" (hypotheses are already embodied in CROWD) and then doing
some version of The Test.

CHUCK TUCKER (950324)

I contend that all experimental research done with humans
can be viewed in PCT terms but I have yet to make such
translations except with the 21 studies done by Milgram

I don't doubt that the translation can be made. What I have always agrued
is that once you have translated the conventional research into PCT you'll
find that it doesn't say much at all. Of course we can identify things
in this research that we can see as disturbances; other things that we can
see as outputs. Sometimes we can even see things that we can identify as
possible controlled variables (like rate of reinforcement in operant
studies). But without doing some version of The Test on individuals this
research can be quite misleading. At best, conventional research can serve
as the catalyst for doing real PCT research. At worst (and most commonly)
it can make you think that things exist (like "stimulus control" or
"compliance with authority figures") which don't.

      (actually this translation was done by Rigney, McPhail and
      myself before we knew of PCT and subsequently re-translated
      at one of the CSG meetings in Wisconsin

Again, this is like translating religious texts from Latin to English;
If it was silly in Latin, it will still be silly in English. In fact,
the untranslated version is much better (for native speakers of English
and PCT) because the meaning doesn't get in the way of the otherwise
important sounding babble.

Best

Rick

@@@@@@@@ FROM CHUCK TUCKER 950327 @@@@@@@@

    The research that you suggest (on controlling for distance from
    another) has already been done both in the field (McPhail and
    Wohlstein, ASR, 1986) and experimentally (by Schweingruber [forth-
    coming]). You ask person to control for distance, gait, and
    tempo of locomotion and they do so and will make adjustments when
    disturbed.

    You are right, Rick, translation is very tricky and can not
    substitute for doing the research BUT it can be very helpful
    in showing how most research arrives at the wrong conclusions
    since they treat behaviors as "stimuli" rather than "distur-
    burances." Milgram is very good on this point since he did
    incorporate disturbances into his design and even tried to
    interpret his results using a "cybernetic" model but he failed
    to give up on his idea of "obedience to authority." Our
    analysis and translation shows that he provides no evidence to
    support his own "theory"; in fact, his own evidence contradicts
    his "theory." The point: all translations are not equal; the
    translator must know PCT.

    Regards, Chuck